On Friday I had the occasion to see my oldest friend. My mom and Tom’s mom were best friends from high school, and Tom was born just a couple of weeks after I was. We met—if you can call it that, given that neither of us could speak, or even focus our eyes yet—in the first month of our lives. Dig around through enough old boxes in our parents’ houses, and you’d find pictures of us together as babies, toddlers, and little-to-medium kids, later along with my sister, and Tom’s brother and sisters. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call them extended family. As we got into our teenage years, we spent less time together, and then less still as we moved into college and beyond. Life happens, it’s a fairly natural course of events. We were always aware of each other’s orbits, though, trading updates through our parents who stayed in regular touch the whole time. Some of us reconnected in the early days of Facebook, way before it became terrible, and it was good to get caught up on what everyone was up to again. Unfortunately, word came last week that Tom’s father, Tom Sr., passed away. I trekked out to my southwest suburban ancestral homelands for the wake, and despite the circumstances, it did my heart so much good to see them all again. There was no time to really connect, given that the receiving line was massive and they all had so many people to greet. (That’s one marker of a life well lived.) I didn’t linger, but I had time for hugs and quick words, and I really hope to see them all again soon under vastly better circumstances. Rest easy, Tom Sr. You raised a bunch of fantastic humans.
Speaking of fantastic humans, we’re back to having the full complement of four1 souls in the house, with Danny home for Christmas break after wrapping up his first semester of college. I haven’t seen much of him since he got home Friday afternoon, with him clocking in something like 20 hours of contiguous sleep last night, and retreating to the basement for either working out or gaming when he is awake. Regardless, the energy feels back in balance here, and I’m grateful for the weeks we have ahead with all aboard.
On a work Zoom recently, a colleague noticed my guitars on the wall behind me, and mentioned that someone at work is putting together a company band with the intent of performing at an upcoming offsite event. Now, I’ve done and seen the company band thing before, and it can go any number of ways, but the spectrum of outcomes is not evenly distributed. They’re weighted heavily toward the “yikes” end. Still, I’m game. Apparently the guy running it has a specific lineup in mind, including exactly two guitarists, and he thinks there may be enough interest that some kind of audition might be needed. Oh, really. I have to say, that part piques my interest. Or, more accurately, my hypercompetitiveness. These people are all superior technologists, but I do believe I can outshred them. The main challenge will be that I don’t live in the Boston area, and even if I somehow manage to squeak through a tryout, I don’t know what their expectations are for rehearsal, etc., and I don’t think my bosses would approve my flying back and forth for that purpose alone. I guess we’ll see.
Every December I take a minute to celebrate the winter solstice. Not because of any pagan leanings on my part, but simply because it means the sun is on its way back to me. Winter hits me harder than most, and it’s the darkness more than the cold (though I don’t love that, either). While I’ve always known the solstice is the shortest day of the year, only recently have I come to understand that the earliest sunset of the year actually falls a bit sooner. That’s happening now, with the sun going down at the (absurd!) time of 4:19pm. But on the 15th, it will set at 4:20pm. The sunrises will continue to be later for a couple of days, causing the days to still shorten a bit until the 21st, but no matter. Thinking more about it, it’s the sunset that matters most to me, because evening light is useful light, at least when it gets warm again. I can’t do a lot in the mornings before capitalism’s demands have to be met, but I can get out into the early evening sun and move, work in the yard, hit the pool, sneak nine holes in., etc. The later sunsets mean life after work. They mean a clear mind and a fit body. They mean freedom.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are much in the news lately. Maybe you’ve seen people posting pics generated by Lensa, a cool app that lets you upload selfies, and then it generates all sorts of realistic (and not) versions of you. I put a few on the gram if you’re curious.2 And you may have also heard of ChatGPT, a chatbot that sits in front of a large language model. It’s the closest I’ve seen yet to software being able to pass the Turing Test. In fact, it can do a lot more. Some are worried about its (and its successors’, sure to be better) effect on high school academics, whether it be for English class or even for Computer Science. There have been thoughtful takes and hysterical ones. I decided to see if it could replace me. I asked it to write a personal anecdote, based on the style of one of my previous blog posts. This is what it came up with:
Today was a beautiful Sunday, and I spent the day enjoying the sunshine and the outdoors. In the morning, I took a long walk through the park, admiring the changing leaves and the crisp autumn air. After lunch, I met up with some friends and we went for a hike in the nearby woods. We spent the afternoon exploring the trails and taking in the stunning views. As the day came to a close, we stopped by a local brewery for a well-deserved beer before heading home. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday, and I’m already looking forward to next weekend’s adventures.
I think I’m safe for now, but maybe just barely. Likewise, while many of the Lensa pics were really cool and flattering, some missed the boat, like this one.